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Bush acknowledges jobs going overseas
By Jennifer Loven
Feb. 13, 2004 | HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- President Bush claimed achievements on education and the economy Thursday in a state crucial to his re-election, hoping to change the economic subject from a top adviser's comments on job losses.
Bush used the brief trip to Pennsylvania – he stayed for barely two hours in the state he lost in 2000 but has visited 25 times since – to try to tamp down criticism from both Democrats and Republicans over an aide's remark that some interpreted as downplaying the loss of American jobs to overseas markets.
On Monday, Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, said such "outsourcing" by U.S. companies is "just a new way of doing international trade."
A Republican normally loyal to the White House, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, said he disagreed that shipping American jobs abroad was good for the U.S. economy.
The White House has declined to criticize Mankiw, focusing on the belief he was espousing that freer global trade benefits workers and consumers in all countries, including the United States. Nonetheless, Bush, aware that sluggish job growth is a potentially huge sore spot as he seeks re-election, made sure to show he views the migration of U.S. jobs to other countries as serious.
"There are people looking for work because jobs have gone overseas," the president told a boisterous crowd filling the gymnasium at a high school here. "And we need to act in this country. We need to act to make sure there are more jobs at home and people are more likely to retain a job."
As he touted his job-growth plan, Bush repeatedly referred to the need to retain jobs alongside his usual statements that new ones must be created.
But back in Washington, Democrats mindful of a chance for political gain weren't about to let the controversy die.
Senate Democrats, led by Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, held a news conference Thursday to propose new protections for workers whose employers send their jobs overseas. Their bill would require outsourcing companies to tell employees and the federal government where the jobs are being sent, how many and why.
Hastert, meanwhile, seemed mollified by a letter he received Thursday from the White House economist Thursday.
In the letter, Mankiw said his comments had been misinterpreted and what he meant to emphasize was the importance of knocking down trade barriers while helping workers who inevitably will lose their jobs to transition into other work.
"My lack of clarity left the wrong impression that I praised the loss of U.S. jobs," Mankiw wrote. "It is regrettable whenever anyone loses a job."
Hastert, of Illinois, said in a statement: "I know that President Bush shares my belief that we need to create a better environment for job creation here in the United States."
Using even sharper rhetoric than usual, the president again called for the tax cuts passed under his watch to not be allowed to expire as planned.
"They'll be raising your taxes," Bush said of unnamed lawmakers or Democratic presidential opponents who disagree with making the cuts permanent. "People need to be able to plan. ... We do not need a tax increase right now in our country."
Even as Bush spoke, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan testified on Capitol Hill in favor of budget rules that would force lawmakers to cover the cost of extending the cuts.
In highlighting his job-training and education programs, Bush suggested that part of the solution to the loss of jobs overseas is to prepare American workers for the higher-paying, higher-skilled jobs in other sectors that he says a robust economy will create to replace them.
Bush has asked Congress for $250 million to fund partnerships between community colleges and employers to train workers in high-demand sectors; $100 million to help students with reading; and $120 million to improve math education. He also wants to expand advanced-placement programs in low-income schools and has proposed larger Pell Grants for students who prepare for college with demanding courses in high school.
"The jobs of the 21st century are going to require a lot of smarts," the president said during an informal discussion with students, education officials and others. "There's some exciting new fields coming."